Over the past month or so I’ve been working my way through a book titled The Ethics of Star Trek. I usually read books very fast, but this one has so many concept involved that, well, I won’t say I’m struggling to get through it anymore, but it’s so detailed and compact that it’s become more of a love/hate relationship than anything else.

Of course, one can’t talk about the ethics of Star Trek without talking about the ethics of the captains of each series, because leaders tend to set the basis for how everyone else within their community is going to act. Sure, there are always those people who will go against the grain, but in general, if people respect their leaders they’re going to try to be more like them, and if they don’t they’re going to try to be less like them.

Though most leaders and managers probably rarely think about it, that’s a lot of pressure that they have to bare. It’s no longer good enough to just be good as a manager at the job for which you were hired for. You’re now required to be ethical in your personal life as well, especially if there’s the possibility that you could somehow damage the reputation of the company you work for. CEO Mark Hurd of Hewitt Packard just learned that lesson, an don his way out stated that he’d violated his own standard of conduct.

Of course we have many examples of that type of thing happening, from Tiger Woods to Eliot Spitzer to Jesse Jackson, all people who set themselves up as one thing only for us to learn that they were actually doing something totally different. Each time someone in the know is caught, the first thing they ask of everyone is to respect their privacy. Unfortunately, once you’ve put yourself out there, privacy is nonexistent; you belong to someone else.

That’s how it is with managers and leaders, which I see as separate entities. They’re not big on the national stage, but they’re big within their own little pond, as they have people reporting to them and are ultimately reportable to someone else, even if they’re the owner of the company. The ethics they exhibit are going to determine their effectiveness long term, and one bad step and it could all be gone.

Of course, there’s the reality that if one’s ethics have always been suspect that they might be able to get over. For instance, Don King, the boxing promoter, has always had ethical issues surrounding him, first from his conviction for killing someone when he was younger, then for some of the questionable boxing deals he’s put together over the course of almost 40 years of promotions where almost every boxer he’s ever represented ended up broke or filing for bankruptcy at some point once their fighting days were over. He’s one of the few who’s been able to bank on that particular reputation and continue to thrive at what he does because he’s never presented himself as anything more than what he was, that being a good boxing promoter.

All of us don’t have that, and in reading this book and seeing how the author breaks down the ethics of each captain (at least the first four; the book was written before Enterprise came on TV), it’s amazing just how closely each one relates to the other in ethics and where all seem to draw the line. With each captain there was one ethic that took precedent over anything else; that was duty to the crew. Treat the crew right and they’ll follow you no matter what. None of them is perfect either, but they wouldn’t do anything that would make them look bad in the eyes of their crew or of Star Fleet. They know the role they’ve accepted, and would rather die than breach those ethics.

As a leader, how are you putting forth your ethics as they pertain to your employees? If you need a refresher course, I’d recommend watching some Star Trek episodes. I’d recommend reading the book as well, but that might take some time.